China is the second largest economy in the world, with a GDP of $13.374 trillion.
But its government offered a meager $100,000 in aid to the Philippines after the southeast Asian country had been devastated by Category 5 Super Typhoon Haiyan, which destroyed cities and towns, leaving millions homeless and at least 10,000 dead in the city of Tacloban alone.
After international groups and a Chinese newspaper, Global Times, criticized Beijing for its paltry donation, Jane Perlez reports for the New York Times that on Nov. 14, 2013, China said it would increase its aid — to $1.4 million in relief supplies, including tents and blankets, on top of $100,000 in cash from the government and another $100,000 from the Chinese Red Cross. Altogether, China’s aid to the Philippines totals a whopping [sarcasm alert] $1.6 million.
As pointed out by USA Today, the $1.6 million China now pledges to the Philippines is still less than the $2.7 million check written by the Swedish furniture store Ikea.
Just a day before, on Nov. 13, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang had stood firm on China’s first offer and said that one consideration in China’s initial announcement was that Chinese people had also suffered during Typhoon Haiyan. Chinese state media reported that eight people died in China when the tail end of the storm hit southern China.
The Chinese government’s stance was consistent with that of the Chinese populace as measured by an online poll on the Phoenix News website on Nov. 13, which showed that 95% of the 60,000 votes cast were against China donating to the Philippines.
China’s initially modest donation to the Philippines, where a huge international relief effort including deliveries of aid by American soldiers is underway, appeared to be based on the frosty relations between the two countries. In contrast, China pledged $1.5 million to Pakistan, its close ally, after an earthquake killed 500 people in September.
Territorial disputes over islands in the South China Sea have poisoned relations between Beijing and Manila since early 2012, and the Philippines is taking its case against China to an international arbitration tribunal. The Philippines angered China this year by accepting a gift of naval vessels from Japan and by supporting Japan’s plans to strengthen its military.
Another factor in determining the initial size of the gift was the hostility among Chinese Internet commentators toward foreign aid, and to aid to the Philippines in particular, Chinese experts said.
A tally by international aid agencies on Nov. 14 showed that China’s new total of $1.6 million was roughly on par with Ireland ($1.4 million), Italy ($1.3 million) and Spain ($1.8 million). Australia promised $30 million; the United Kingdom offered $16 million; Japan and United Arab Emirates each pledged $10 million.
The United States pledged $20 million. Along with the distribution of water purification kits, food and emergency shelter, the U.S. also dispatched the George Washington aircraft carrier to the Philippines with 80 aircraft and 5,000 troops on board. Two U. S. Navy ships arrived in advance of the carrier on Thursday.
UPDATE (Nov. 23, 2013):
The government of the Republic of China on Taiwan has donated US$200,000 to the Philippines and sent 18 sorties of military cargo planes filled with 130 metric tons of relief supplies worth about US$2.7 million. (Source)